JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — A fourth-quarter comeback fueled a pivotal win for Cambridge in the Bears’ week seven region matchup with Chattahoochee. Cambridge defeated the Cougars 28-20 behind three rushing touchdowns from Phillip Michael Collins and three turnovers forced by its defense.
“We responded,” Cambridge head coach Craig Bennett said. “I felt like we left some points off the board early, but a win is always good. Our kids were down 17-7 and came back to win. I’m proud of them for that.”
Defense reigned supreme early in the game.
Chattahoochee’s defense came up with a crucial fumble recovery at their own goal line, preventing an early touchdown for the Bears. Cambridge's defense forced a fumble and an interception that set up a score to start the second quarter, a 6-yard touchdown run by Collins.
Chattahoochee didn’t take long to respond.
Quarterback Jaylen Smith scrambled from the pass rush and completed a 50-yard pass to Tucker Heaton. Shortly after, Smith completed a 15-yard pass to Jordan Palmer who was standing uncovered in the middle of the end zone. With the extra point, the Cougars tied the game at 7-7 with 3:57 remaining in the first half.
A 50-yard run by Smith set up an eventual 33-yard field goal by Chattahoochee kicker Ian Ortloff to give the Cougars a 10-7 lead at halftime.
Chattahoochee senior Ian Wise strip-sacked Harris on the first play of the second half, and the offense made the turnover count. Running back Tyran McCoy ran in for the score from 9 yards out, giving the Cougars a 17-7 lead.
Cambridge answered when Collins ran for a 4-yard touchdown to make it a 17-14 game.
After a 25-yard field goal by Ortloff, the Bears trailed by six points with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
With the ball at their own 30 yard line, the Bears fed Collins. The junior, nicknamed “PMC,” ran for 26 yards to move the ball into Chattahoochee territory. He followed with runs of 11 yards and 20 yards to put the Bears inside the red zone. Quarterback Zach Harris then hit Hayden Gardella for a 15-yard touchdown pass, and the extra point put the Bears on top 21-20.
“You can’t say enough about that,” Bennett said. “The kid took the team and put them on his shoulders, that one drive especially. And obviously the offensive line did a good job, so those guys get some credit. When he has opportunities, he’s done a really good job for us. You got to ride him.”
Trailing by one point with just over five minutes left, Chattahoochee attempted to drive down the field and retake the lead. However, Cambridge linebacker Luke Ritter came up with an interception, and the Bears took over on offense in the Cougars’ territory.
Cambridge added a 5-yard touchdown run from Collins and went up 28-20 late in the game.
The Cougars got the ball back with 60 seconds left on the clock, but the Bears’ defense held strong. Chattahoochee’s attempt at a Hail Mary fell incomplete, and Cambridge took home the victory.
As the team walked off the field, Bennett pulled Collins aside and walked with him for a minute.
“I told [Collins] he carried us right there in the second half,” Bennett said. “He did a good job. I think we just had to get back to some basic football and start running the ball like we practice. That’s our identity.”
Cambridge (3-3, 2-2) entered the season with a small senior class and limited expectations, but with only four games remaining, the Bears are within reach of a playoff spot. They play Northview on Oct. 11 at home.
Chattahoochee (1-5, 0-4) has rival Centennial up next on the road. The Cougars sit at the bottom of the Region 7-AAAAAA standings in their first year under head coach Mike Malone. As Bennett pointed out though, the Cougars’ record isn’t exactly a strong reflection of their team.
“Credit to Chattahoochee,” Bennett said. “They fought. They’ve done a good job here. Their record doesn’t look like it, but they’re a good football team. They’ve hung with some really good teams. So we’ll take the win. We struggled at times, but we’ll take it.”